MORE THAN A FEELING
By Allyson Marrs
It can come from anywhere and be triggered by just about anything.
Stress (and anxiety) is a personal experience, yet it's an entirely universal feeling. Everyone has felt it, and while for some it can be a minor distraction, for others, it's a debilitating state that interferes with daily life.
Anxiety is often the product of stress, and the two also work together through emotional and cognitive components. Anxiety "is usually a normal reaction to a stressor. It's the uneasy feeling of fear, worry, concern or dread," says Kathy Norman, M.A., a psychotherapist at Rehab Options of Issaquah.
Everyone, at some point, experiences anxiety, with sometimes physical effects, and Kathy says that in her experience the most common triggers are demanding situations—work, school, family and relationships, finances, health issues and significant life changes.
"There is an accumulative effect with stress," she says. "We can successfully manage a certain number of stressors and a functional level of stress on a daily basis; but if too many things pile up, or we feel that we have lost control of our situation, we sometimes find our breaking point."
The interesting part about stress and anxiety is that no one is really immune. Kathy has treated all ages and hasn't noted any strong trends for genders. Instead, specific stressors are the cause—things that can cause internal turmoil or external situational dilemmas. "I find it is very common for people to struggle to adapt to their environment and its demands. Anyone can become burdened with responsibilities and problems. We are continuously forced to create new ways of coping and adjusting."
Kathy says that some people are thought to have an innate inclination toward anxiety, but usually, it's something that can be treated through therapy, or the combination of that and medication, if it's a chemical imbalance. Ultimately, it's about balance.
"People who have good coping skills in place are more able to manage their distressing symptoms. Problems don't tend to treat themselves. They usually get better when we pay some attention to them."
This can mean simply acknowledging that you need help treating those problems. Kathy says that when stress or anxiety begin to impair daily life or create dysfunction, it's time to seek help from a professional. Excessive or ongoing worry, an unrealistic view of problems, irritability and physical reactions (such as nausea, migraines and muscle tension) are all severe signs.
"The tough thing about stress and anxiety is that they often get worse if ignored," she says. "There is momentum that can often perpetuate a perplexing and distressing cycle."
So remember to closely evaluate your feelings and triggers each time stress and anxiety set in. If you can, follow Kathy's tips to ease the feelings, but don't hesitate to reach out to professionals when you aren't able to do it on your own.
Five Ways to Ease Stress and Anxiety
Courtesy of Kathy Norman
1. Exercise regularly and eat well, as these both build and sustain resiliency to stress and anxiety.
2. Belong to a community of people with a common purpose.
3. Spend time on hobbies and special interests. These are wonderfully calming instruments.
4. Meditate, slow your breathing, think past the current stressor, think in terms of priorities or call a friend when anxiety begins to feel overwhelming.
5. Find a good therapist with whom you can explore new perspective on and direction toward your goals.
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